Great to see The Irish Times book reviewer Sarah Gilmartin give a big thumbs up to the Young Irelanders Anthology of new Irish short stories I edited for New Island Press – the 1st anthology to celebrate the recent sea-change in Irish Fiction, mirroring the sea-change in Irish society, from homogeneity to diversity, from tradition to innovation, from insular, monotoned ‘irish’ to inclusive global ‘rainbow’ writing culture in which a melting-pot of styles and beautiful eccentricities becomes the new and most welcome norm in our literature:
“This current batch of Young Ireland revisit age-old themes – love, infidelity, bullying, self-harm, grief, death – using a variety of techniques and from a variety perspectives, from the modernist style of Claire-Louise Bennett’s impressive Oyster, whose narrative voice recalls the intelligent and eloquent presence evoked in her debut collection, to the short surreal tales of Cathy Sweeney’s Three Stories on a Theme. Little girls made of paper, wives enmeshed in webs, stories that take place “in the summer of the great heat when weeds grew totalitarian and trees oozed sap in an endless dream”.
The voice of the teenage narrator in Kevin Curran’s Saving Tanya, the opening story, is heavily crafted, with lots of “yeahs” and “likes” and “what is it” peppering the story, but a deflated ending works well to offset serious themes of bullying and suicide in the social-media age.
The instructive tone and second-person voice of Róisín O’Donnell’s How to Learn Irish in Seventeen Steps capture the plight of the young Brazilian woman who has chosen to forsake her homeland for love and now must learn Irish to get a job as a teacher, yet a switching in tense throughout the story draws attention to the author’s hand. Oisín Fagan’s Subject is an odd mix of a clinical character profile with fiercely subjective views and insights in long, punctuation-light passages that overflow with energy.
Elsewhere, Rob Doyle’s story Summer is an ambitious piece about infidelity that plays with form and invites multiple readings, not least for its great opening line: “Men don’t regret cheating actually, only the consequences.”
Mia Gallagher’s 17:57:39 – 20:59:03 is an extract from a forthcoming novel, and reads as such, but its “he-she” narrator’s handling of a lecherous taxi driver deftly conveys the lengths some people must go to be themselves: “Trans rule number one: never alienate.”
The author of Young Skins, Colin Barrett, is back with more convincing teenage anguish in Doon, vividly evoking the voice and world of 17-year-old Doon Minion, who cultivates a hard-man image among his crew while craving the familial bond that his cousin offers with regular haircuts.
Elsewhere: a priest and a feminist playing strip poker at a retreat; a student diet of sliced pan soaked in poteen; a grief-stricken mother who “sees that loss is a pit that becomes more cavernous and bottomless as the sides slope downwards”. It all amounts to a collection of stories that are unique in their subject matter, with flashes of those lonely voices emerging from the pages.”